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Photo By: PIXTA/ y-ゆう
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Achi Village

A dark sky and special tours have turned this quiet alpine town into Japan’s most popular stargazing spot

By Whitney Hubbell

If you’re searching for an excellent stargazing spot in Japan, you’ve come to the right place. Nestled in the Japanese Alps in southwestern Nagano Prefecture lies Achi Village, known for its offerings in onsen, skiing, and above all, stargazing.

Far from any big cities, Achi’s dark sky has helped make it one of the most popular places in Japan to see the stars, attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year.

Stargazing

Photo by: PIXTA/ satoppppy A view unlike any other.

In 2006, Japan’s Ministry of Environment recognized Achi as the top place in Japan for observing stars. Since then, Achi has opened designated stargazing facilities and been offering special stargazing tours.

The main stargazing facility is Star Village Achi, located atop a mountain in the ski resort Fujimidai Highlands Heavens Sonohora. This facility offers three different tours a year based on the season. A ropeway stretches from the mountain’s base to the 1400-meter high peak and can be accessed from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., ensuring visitors are at the top before the show starts.

At the top is Star Village Achi, which consists of a wide-open area with telescopes and a cosmic-themed restaurant and gift shop. At 8 p.m. the lights are turned off and visitors are treated to a 30-minute sky show that utilizes lasers to explain the stars and constellations visible in that season.

Another stargazing spot with a different atmosphere is Namiai Starry Sky Park. This forest park was opened in 2018 and includes a campground, bakery, observation deck and educational rooms. The tours at this park are more likely to offer shows in English, and the shows are more educational in nature, going deeper into explaining different stars and constellations.

Onsen and Nature

Achi Village

Photo by: PIXTA/ Ran Springtime in Achi Village.

Achi is also home to Hirugami Hot Springs, a hot spring resort area with more than 20 hot springs, hotels, and ryokan, as well as a popular morning market. Hirugami is a rather new onsen town, with hot springs that were discovered only about 50 years ago. The high alkaline concentration of this newly discovered hot spring water is supposed to soothe the muscles and smoothen the skin. Many accommodations in Hirugami offer accommodation packages that include tickets and a shuttle bus to a stargazing tour.

Skiing and other winter sports are another major draw to Achi. There is, of course, the Heavens Sonohora ski resort, as well as the Jibuzaka Kogen ski area. These two places are guaranteed to have plenty of snow for those hitting the slopes in winter, but also offer views of flowers in spring and autumn colors, not to mention a spectacular mountain panorama in every season.

Things To Know

Tours and fees

Tickets for stargazing tours must be booked at least two weeks in advance.
Star Village Achi tours: ¥2,000  for adults and ¥1,000 for children
Namiai Tours: ¥1,000 for adults, ¥500 for children.

To learn more, visit the official websites of Star Village Achi and Namiai.

How To Get There

Address

By train

Visitors traveling by public transportation from Osaka or Tokyo can take JR trains to the Iida line. From Tokyo take the Chuo line to Okaya Station for 2.5 hours, and from Osaka take the Shinkansen for 1 hour and 20 minutes to Toyohashi Station. Then alight at Iida Station after about 2.5 hours to take a 30-minute local bus or taxi ride to Achi. 

By bus

From Tokyo, take a 2.5-hour bus ride from Shinjuku station to Kamiusawa, then change to a direct bus to Hirogami Onsen. 

From Nagoya, take highway bus from the Meitetsu Bus Center at Nagoya station. The bus ride to Sonohora takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Where To Stay

Hirugami Onsen Yumoto Hotel Achigawa
  • 503-115 Chisato, Shimoina-gun Achi-mura, Nagano, 395-0304 Japan
  • ¥12,870 - ¥43,560
  • 4.26/5 (729 reviews)
  • 4.0 km
Hirugami Onsen Otogitei Kofu
  • 490 Chisato, Shimoina-gun Achi-mura, Nagano, 395-0304 Japan
  • ¥22,000 - ¥53,460
  • 4.38/5 (748 reviews)
  • 4.3 km
Hirugami Onsen Nitchouan Keigetsu
  • 425 Chisato, Shimoina-gun Achi-mura, Nagano, 395-0304 Japan
  • ¥17,820 - ¥52,800
  • 4.3/5 (426 reviews)
  • 4.3 km
Manyo Saryo Misaka Ryokan
  • 461-1 Chisato, Shimoina-gun Achi-mura, Nagano, 395-0304 Japan
  • ¥13,650 - ¥13,650
  • 5.2 km

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